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7.7 The Womb as the Container of the Deity

In the Wake the vagina and sexual congress replace heaven, the church and the sacrament of communion, with the womb itself a biological pyx, a container of the deity on earth. The complementary duality of the literary regeneration and biological reproduction of HCE parallels the usage of 'word' and 'flesh' in the New Testament relating to the birth of Christ. Echoing the apostle John's description of Christ as word made flesh,11 the narrator at the outset of Book III.4 would transform through sexual desire his non-reproductive narrative concerning Issy into biological flesh:

Would one but to do apart a lilybit her virginelles and, so, to breath, so, therebetween, behold, she had instantt with her handmade as to graps the myth inmid the air. Mother of moth! I will to show herword in flesh. (FW 561.24-27)

Moreover, the presence of the deity in the female loins in Finnegans Wake can be contrasted with the director's invitation to Stephen to join the priesthood in A Portrait, where the miracle of life has been obscured by the religious myth of Christ's 'real presence', where rather than via the female, the deity becomes material via the ministrations of a priest:

No angel or archangel in heaven, no saint, not even the Blessed Virgin herself has the power of a priest of God: the power of the keys, [...] the authority, to make the great God of Heaven come down upon the altar and take the form of bread and wine. What an awful power, Stephen! (P 143)

In the Christian religion the ritual of eating the king is reminiscent of ancient fertility and resurrection rituals such as the Egyptian Osiris cycle, both of which have eclipsed the arguably far more important miracle of sexual reproduction. Accordingly, the religious emphasis upon a ritualised cultural/textual reproduction of the masculine deity is inverted in Finnegans Wake back to the act of sexual intercourse. HCE's identity as an earwig is a parallel to the medieval version of the Christian myth of the immaculate conception which depicts the word of god becoming flesh after entering Mary's ear.12 An alternative scenario of Christ's birth is proposed by Virag in Circe, who suggests that 'Panther, the Roman centurion, polluted her with his genitories. [...] Messiah! He burst her tympanum' (U 15.2599-2602). The latter also echoes Simon Dedalus's comment on Ben Dollard's singing of 'Love's Old Sweet Song', 'you'd burst the tympanum of her ear, [...] with an organ like yours', and Father Cowley's rejoinder 'Not to mention another membrane' (U 11.536-40). In Ulysses the immaculate conception is similarly ridiculed by Stephen who represents the deity as a pigeon:

Qui vous a mis dans cette fichue position?

C'est le pigeon, Joseph. (U 3.161-62)

and again by Stephen as Phillips Drunk and Sober:


(gravely) Qui vous a mis dans cette fichue position, Phillippe?


(gaily) C'était le sacré pigeon, Phillippe. (U 15.2582-85)

Despite such ridicule, Stephen does not question the existence of the deity, just its spiritual omnipotence. It exists because it is present as a cultural textual construction, and thus is the word that enters via the ear. In addition to sources such as the church and his mother, the logos of the deity speaks from the Bible, for like all books 'an itch of death is in them, to tell me in my ear a maudlin tale, urge me to wreak their will' (U 9.356-58). Joyce rearranges the textual construction of the logos, combining the masculine myth of creativity with the miracle of feminine sexual reproduction, and this gender duality is also enumerated in Stephen's analysis of Shakespeare's art: 'As we, or mother Dana, weave and unweave our bodies, [...] from day to day, their molecules shuttled to and fro, so does the artist weave and unweave his image' (U 9.376-78). In Finnegans Wake the ridiculed pigeon (Latin, columba) metamorphoses into the phallic 'column' of the Wellington Monument where a female sexual desire for the textual logos is emphasised: 'My Curly Lips Demand Columbkisses' (FW 105.32). In the Wake, the power of the priest to invoke the deity remains vested in the Father Michael of the letter (see also, *, * and *) but rather than the 'real presence' of the eucharist, in Joyce's feminine mythology he instead uses sexual union to invoke biologically the deity from ALP's womb/tomb.

11 John 1.14.

12 Weldon Thornton, Allusions in Ulysses: An Annotated List (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968), p. 400.